FOX 9 rides along with St. Paul police as hands-free enforcement begins

Starting Thursday, Minnesota drivers have to put down their phones while behind the wheel.

The state's new hands-free law took effect on Thursday, and police were out enforcing the new rules and making sure drivers know about the change that aims to make the roads a little safer.

FOX 9 got the chance to ride along with St. Paul police as they kept an eye out for drivers breaking the law.

"Even if you’re at a red light, you can’t be on Instagram," says Officer Justin Groves.

The hands-free law means drivers can use their cell phones to make calls, text, listen to music and get directions, but only through voice commands or making a single tap to activate.

Officer Groves is with the St. Paul Police Department and knows what can happen when people are distracted.

"When you look down at your phone to read a text or to even change or look for your favorite song, you’re pretty much closing your eyes to the road in front of you," said Officer Groves.

The change is going to take some getting used to… One driver, Kayley Isaacson, was calling her dad when Officer Groves spotted her.

"I had heard about it, yes, I didn’t know it was today," she said.

And just up the road, another driver told us she answered a call out of habit. "I definitely think it’s going to take some getting used to from everybody," said Olivia Charpentier.

In the end, Officer Groves tells us it’s all about making sure the public gets where they need to go -- in one piece.

"Ultimately, we just want everyone to get to their destinations safely," he says. "We, as police officers, would much rather have compliance than have to issue citations."

St. Paul police say, as of 6 p.m. Thursday, they had stopped 22 people for hands-free violations, with a few citations written. Officers say, at this point, they just want to make sure people know about the law and are complying. Thursday, they handed about pamphlets detailing the new rules.